I dread going into the office for work every day. When I’m away on business trips, which is increasingly becoming half the time, I am often overcome with anxiety and the complete inability to focus. I have endless lists of things that I need to do that I feel like I can never catch up on. But also I have the feeling that it doesn’t matter if I never catch up or do everything to the best of my ability because no one at my office besides me seems to care about my quality of work. This place is definitely not a team environment – it’s every person for himself, and it’s very hard to get any support or help. The thought of quitting my job is so tempting – I feel like a huge weight would be lifted off my shoulders and I’d finally be able to breath again. Eventually, I’m sure I’d get anxiety about not having a job and money, but I do have enough saved that I could last an entire year and then some without a job. At least that is one thing good about this job – it pays really well.
I never felt this way at my last job. I loved going into work (almost) every day, and I took a lot of pride in the work that I did. I was busy, but not overwhelmed. I was challenged, but always knew I could ask for help if needed. I left that job because of the location (the plant was in a very small town) to move back to the city when I got an offer for this job.
I have suffered from depression and anxiety before in the past though, so I worry that these feelings I have about my job now have little to do with the actual job and are all about me. Shouldn’t I be able to handle the stress of this job? Shouldn’t I be able to focus and get these endless lists of stuff done? If I left this job and went to another, would I just repeat my same problems over there?
I guess another piece that bothers me about the thought of leaving is that I would be giving up. I don’t want to think of myself as a quitter. I’d be leaving tons of projects in a state of disarray which makes me feel very guilty. I was so meticulous when I left my last job and had everything handed over to new project managers very organized so that I felt I was leaving things behind in a good state. I’ve had talks with my boss over the past two months about being overwhelmed with too many projects, and he has taken some of the workload off, which was a huge relief. But this hasn’t seemed to help as much as I had hoped since I’ve only gotten more orders from customers since that time.
I don’t know what advice I’m really looking for. Maybe: how can I overcome these feelings of guilt and inadequacy if I were to leave (either just quitting or for a different job)? If I do stay, how can I work through the anxiety and get done what I need to? And have you or any readers felt like this before at your jobs? What did you do and how did it work out? — Hating My Job
This isn’t a relationship question, but I’m posting your letter because your issue is one that a lot of people, including me, have experienced, can relate to, and can offer some advice about. First of all, if you don’t already have a therapist, I’d suggest finding one immediately. What you’re describing sounds like more than just disliking a job; you’re describing anxiety (and maybe depression), and, since you have a history of anxiety and depression, it’s not a stretch to believe you could be suffering from these again. As you probably already know, anxiety and depression can be treated pretty easily, and there’s no reason to continue suffering when help is often readily available. So let that be your first step. I also suggest getting a full physical to rule out any medical issues that could be affecting your overall well-being.
It’s quite possible — even likely — that treating your anxiety may not solve the entire problem. Even for the the most healthy person, a bad job situation can make him or her miserable. Maybe your current position and the company you work for and the people you work with just aren’t a good fit for you. If after you’ve talked to your boss about your unhappiness and together made changes in your duties and you’re still unhappy, there’s no shame AT ALL in looking for a job that is a better fit for you. It doesn’t make you a quitter. At least, not in the sense that you’re irresponsible or don’t finish what you’ve started. You aren’t a kid any more. Your career isn’t the same thing as taking piano lessons or running a fundraiser for the your soccer team. It’s your career. It’s where you spend a huge chunk of your life, and, if you aren’t happy, then it’s irresponsible not to find ways to change your situation. So, start looking for a new job. Look far and wide. Sometimes, just reminding ourselves that there are other options — there are escape routes! — eases the anxiety we feel about being where we are.
I have definitely had jobs I disliked or hated — some more than others. Sometimes it was the people I worked with that I didn’t like, sometimes it was the low pay for the amount of effort involved, sometimes it was the lack of regard and credit from others for the work I did, and sometimes it was simply the work itself. And I’ve done everything from quitting a job when I didn’t have another lined up and didn’t have much money saved (do not recommend) to finding a better job to building a freelance career in my off hours to getting a new position at the same company to establishing a work-from-home agreement with my employers to creating my own damn job and becoming my own damn boss. Some of these “escape routes” worked better than others, but the one thing they all had in common was that they took me from a place of passivity to a place of assertiveness. I was unhappy about something in my job and I made a change, and, even when the change didn’t always result in the outcome I had hoped for, the sheer empowerment I felt by doing something about my unhappiness always had a huge effect on my emotional well-being.
So… while I don’t suggest you simply quit a job you hate without having a Plan B (besides just living off your savings for a year), I do suggest you get to work on creating that Plan B (and Plan C and so on). Look for other work. Ask about going part-time where you are now until you find another job. Get in touch with a headhunter who specializes in your industry. Network, network, network (go to industry events, connect with former classmates and colleagues on LinkedIn and Facebook and various other social and/or industry sites). Get in touch with your former employers at the job you liked so well and ask whether they know of openings in your field. Hell, maybe they’d even consider hiring you for telecommuting work, even on a freelance basis.
I know you feel stuck, but you aren’t. And if you are single and unencumbered by children and aren’t responsible for anyone else, you have even more freedom to take some risks (like accepting a lower-paying job or uprooting your life and moving to a new city, or going part-time for a while to lower your stress). Don’t think of moving on as “quitting.” Think of it as getting un-stuck.
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